Join the local shopping mob and support local businesses for the holidays
There's something to be said for galvanizing support via a mob event: American Express' Small Business Saturday initiative garnered $1 million for Girls, Inc. - through a Facebook "like" campaign - while simultaneously creating Internet-wide buzz for consumers to support small businesses today.
"Some days even barter would be good enough," bemoaned a local wine merchant, feeling hard times.
As I purchased a bottle of wine, the thought of Trader Joe's a mile away, with decent wines in the $2-6 range, made me feel for this guy who had opened his independent business to serve and educate the immediate neighborhood.
Maybe it was the cold weather bringing seasonal cheer, or families visiting for the holiday, but it was a joy yesterday to see people on College crowding the streets. Book, clothing and gift stores were filled with shoppers hearkening back to a day before online shopping was the norm.
Admittedly it is sometimes difficult to pay the "extra" to buy books or other items locally which are available for less online. I try to overcome this by considering the local businesses to be a service and wonderful addition that make the area what it is. Once the chain stores take over a formerly indi neighborhood it's unlikely the area can turn back. Fillmore St in San Francisco, where landlords are furiously increasing rent is one example. Old Town Pasadena is another, with blocks and blocks of chain stores in the old brick buildings.
It doesn't take much to make a difference in keeping small businesses going. Whether you spend $1 or more today, let's mob and keep our local communities local.
Easy Ways to Support Local Businesses in Oakland and Berkeley Today
And of course tell your friends about the shop local day today!
Suggestions for Retailers:
Modernize your hours! Most independent businesses still seem to close at 6pm, when people are barely getting off of work. Is this not a legacy from a bygone era? It seems worth a test to open later and stay open longer to see if shoppers come by before or after dinner. Think Spain: Close for a few hours during the day and open later. Perhaps poll your customers on their preference for later hours, to start with.
Think like an online shopper. For big stores, add more guides or directions so when we walk in we can quickly find what we want. Sometimes it's fun to browse but sometimes we're trying to support a local business but want to get out quickly. It's not quaint but it's true, and the more efficient you can help us be the more likely we'll be to return.
Ask for suggestions. The more you involve customers, the more loyal and attached to your store we'll be. (One of Trader Joe's approaches.)
One of the founders of Zingerman's, a deli in Ann Arbor which had a vision to grow locally, has written some books that are worth a read.